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'Handmade and damn handsome': Handsome Coffee Roasters to open Downtown

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012, at 09:25AM
courtesy of Handsome Coffee Roasters

"Handmade and Damn Handsome" is the tagline on Handsome Coffee Roasters bag of beans. The company will be opening their flagship location Downtown in the upcoming weeks.

There will be no flavored syrups, fancy blended concoctions or complicated drink names at Handsome Coffee Roasters; they're highlighting quality and simplicity with a short menu of home-roasted coffee.

"For us, it's the coffee that's handsome - not necessarily us," joked Chris Owens, master roaster and co-founder of the company.

Owens said he and his partners Tyler Wells and Michael Phillips decided to do away with the nomenclature of coffee drinks in an effort to make all their customers feel comfortable and confident in what they're ordering. If you ask someone on the street what a cappuccino is, you're going to get a lot of different responses, said Owens.

So at Handsome, the choices are a few brewed coffee options: "espresso" or "espresso and steamed milk". They'll also be selling a short list of baked goods courtesy of Atwater Village bakery, Proof.

The menu is "emblematic of our favorite things," said Owens.

"Were just trying to make great coffee and create a comfortable experience for everyone," he added.

This level of simplicity and transparency is consistent throughout their warehouse spot at the corner of Mateo and Willow. The 3,500-square-foot roasting facility/coffee bar is divided mostly by glass, said Owens, so that as you sip your coffee you can actually see (and probably smell) the whole roasting process.

Owens acknowledged that there's plenty of indie coffee roasters doing "great work," but Handsome has their own style; they've chosen to make only a few coffee items, but make them really well. They use a vintage drum roaster and buy beans that are typically bright, dynamic and get a lot of their sweetness from citrus, said Owens - which he tries to bring out in the final product.

The brand name "Handsome" is meant to symbolize a return to quality, he said, and recall a simpler time when vendors specialized in and mastered one craft; like a baker or a butcher.

And Owens, Wells and Phillips seem to have mastered their craft. All three founders have long, individual histories in the upscale coffee biz, and at one point or another they've all worked for Intelligentsia Coffee, in Chicago, Pasadena and Venice.

But the Handsome Coffee Roasters didn't join forces until April of last year and they "didn't roast a single bean of coffee" until June. Since then, it's been a whirlwind - establishing a wholesale business selling coffee to vendors including Baco Mercat and Daily Dose, while they work on establishing their flagship location in Downtown.

Soon after they first started roasting, the Handsome guys said that the city of L.A. was uniquely suited for their hand-crafted coffee.

"Everyone here is practicing a craft, in one way or another," says Owens. "Everyone is constantly trying to refine their acting, or trying to refine their writing, or their clothes design, or their printmaking skills, and they get very excited about the details of their craft and how to make it better. They kind of understand that we're doing the same thing."

The roasters were able to celebrate with a soft opening party Wednesday, and are expecting to open to the public within the next few weeks pending a final inspection.

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